Think of Lampedusa
University of Nebraska Press, 2017
A collection of serial poems, Think of Lampedusa addresses the 2013 shipwreck that killed 366 Africans attempting to migrate secretly to Lampedusa, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. The crossing from North Africa to this island and other Mediterranean way stations has become the most dangerous migrant route in the world. Interested in what is producing such epic displacement, Josué Guébo’s poems combine elements of history and mythology. Guébo considers the Mediterranean not only as a literal space but also as a space of expectation, anxiety, hope, and anguish for migrants. He meditates on the long history of narratives and bodies trafficked across the Mediterranean Sea. What did it—and what does it—connect and separate? Whose sea is it? Ultimately he is searching for what motivates a person to become part of what he calls a “seasonal suicide epidemic.” This translation of Guébo’s Songe à Lampedusa, winner of the Tchicaya U Tam’si Prize for African Poetry, is a searing work from a major African poet.
Defiantly elegant. It is elegy and evocation, a summoning of the dead as a chorus speaking to those who do not see, or do not care, to remind them of the consciousness of Earth and of history’s will to life, and the ordering of change. . . . The poet’s hand is essential to our redemption.Afaa M. Weaver, author of The Plum Flower Dance and Multitudes
I can’t help but be moved by this large ambition of Josué Guébo, by his impossible task of bringing together poetics as different as those of Whitman and Mallarmé, by his huge desire to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves and also to find the secret of lyric utterance.Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic